How is it that exposure to biotoxins such as toxic mold, can affect hormones? What are some simple steps to re-create balance? You can start with cleaning your nose and make sure you’re pooping every day! Let’s explore why….
Exposure to toxic molds and the many bacterial fragments that come with it, can disrupt multiple interacting systems in the body. Often people with exposure to mold experience chronic fatigue, cognitive and mood disorders, as well as many disruptions in their hormones- from severe PMS, to infertility, early menopause, erectile dysfunction in men, night sweats in both sexes, heavy periods, extreme fatigue, thyroid dysfunction, including Hashimotos, diabetes and unexplained rapid weight gain or loss. 1.
The mechanisms of mycotoxin hormonal dysregulation are multi-factorial: Direct hormone mimicking effects, indirect effects through limbic activation and gut disruption, as well as a huge inflammatory effect in the immune system. Inflammation by itself can disrupt our hormones and perpetuates a vicious cycle of imbalance and endocrine (hormonal) disruption.
The presence of these mycotoxins have strong implications for endocrine disruption. 2 Why should we be so worried about endocrine disruptors? Because according to the EPA, endocrine disruptors can cause developmental malformations, interference with reproduction, increased cancer risk, and disturbances in the immune and nervous system. 3
A common unrecognized culprit of hormonal imbalance.
Did you know that you may be breathing in mold from exposure to damp buildings at home or work? If you live in the United States, 85% of buildings have had past water damage.4 Unfortunately, water damaged buildings [WBD] not correctly repaired, can harbor obvious or hidden toxic mold species. If you have lived in an old building, you were most likely exposed to some mold. Because mold mycotoxins are fat soluble, they can accumulate over time, so the toxic mold exposure from your childhood basement, old grade school or college dorm room may have been in your system for years.
See my previous blog on 5 DIY Steps to Assess for Home Mold to help you asses your own house.
Unfortunately low grade chronic toxic mold exposures, over time, primes your systems to react. Combined with the challenges of the Standard American Diet (SAD)- too many chemicals and sugars, no nutrients, genetically modified and full of pesticides and antibiotics, along with lots of grain mycotoxins- creates the perfect storm of imbalance in your gut and brain, all impacting hormones.
Even if you live in new construction, because of current building materials and poor environmental standards, your exposure to mycotoxins could still be a problem. Toxic Mold can even be lurking in places you don’t expect like your car, if you have a sunroof that had a leak, or left windows open with rain. Learn more about how to address these at ToxicMoldProject.com.
Whether or not YOUR hormones become affected depends on many factors, including genetic predispositions, length and amount of exposures, other chronic illnesses, antibiotic and synthetic hormone use, stress levels, traumatic brain injury as well as Adverse Childhood Events (ACES).
Keep your nose and pipes clean!
The nose and gut both play important roles in helping to balance the four major hormonal systems, and both are affected significantly by exposure to tiny noxious particles found in contaminated air, as well as foods.
The primary exposures to mycotoxins, yeast and fungi happen through your nose and gastrointestinal tract, triggering hormonal disruption both directly and indirectly through mechanisms we’ll explore below. When looking at symptoms of hormonal disruption it’s important to look at how the 4 major hormonal groups interact and dance with one another in an elegant ballet, to explain why you can have so many seemingly unrelated symptoms.
Smells, Hormones and the Limbic System
As you take a deep breath through your nose, many small particles enter through your nose with your inhalation. They end up triggering the sensing and smelling nerve at the back of your nose, called the olfactory bulb, sending signals right to the part of the your brain that controls your hormonal functions and “fight or flight” mechanisms. This area is called the limbic system. A pleasant or benign smell or particulate will signal safety or the possibility of good food or sex, while a foul smell or toxin will trigger signals of danger and avoidance, the familiar “fight or flight” stress response. How does this work?
The path the particles take is your olfactory nerve. Air pollutants of all kinds, and particularly very tiny, tiny mycotoxins, < 0.1 microns , irritate the sinuses, releasing inflammatory chemicals. These inflammatory chemicals then travel back to the limbic system and can disrupt hormonal signaling, sending a constant signal of distress, kicking on adrenaline and cortisol, which then impact all of your other hormones.
The limbic system in the brain has several parts including the hypothalamus- master regulatory center of all things hormonal, as well as the amygdala- the part that is constantly scanning for danger. If it becomes inflamed from toxins there can be an impact on your hormonal balance.
The Hypothalamus both releases and inhibits hormone signals to your Pituitary gland which then controls functions of your ovaries, testicles, thyroid, adrenals and insulin production. It’s an interconnection known as the “HPA axis”. These glands control your energy and reproductive capacity. It is also involved in other functions like temperature control.
If your protective blood brain barrier has been breached, which often happens with prolonged leaky gut issues and head trauma, particulates and mycotoxins can sometimes travel directly into the brain through the spongy bone area at the top of our nasal passages called the “cribriform plate”, where there can be direct damage to the area near the pituitary gland. Yikes!
The Infection- Yeast- Fungal- Hormonal Cycle
Irritants in the sinuses lead to lots of mucous production, and predisposes to sinus infection and chronic post nasal drip. Infections are then treated with antibiotics, which further suppress your good guy gut bacteria(see below) and your immune system, causing yeast and fungal overgrowth in the sinuses. These in turn can produce internal mycotoxins, leading to more susceptibility to infection in a vicious circle. Recurrent antibiotic use is known to exacerbate hormonal imbalances, and even implicated in breast and other hormonal cancers! Don’t worry, there is help! Read on…
What else do we know about mycotoxins and hormones?
Besides disrupting the HPA axis and affecting hormones indirectly, toxic mold exposure can have a direct effect on hormonal receptors throughout the body. Studies have shown that many different mycotoxins either mimic or block the receptors for hormones including estrogen, testosterone and thyroid hormones. Several different types of mycotoxins including a derivative of black mold, trichothecenes, called DON and well known Zearolone, have estrogenic effects, acting as “xenoestrogens” on estrogen receptors. Zearolone can cause early puberty in young girls, as well as other hormonal effects. 5
When this happens, women can experience things like infertility, endometriosis, PCOS, or disruptions of thyroid hormone function. Others can experience very heavy periods or bad cramps as well as stubborn weight gain. Men too can see weight gain, prostate issues, diabetes and ED. Both sexes can experience hot flashes or night sweats and acne. Unfortunately in young girls, a common mycotoxin, called Zearolone, has caused alarming cases of precocious puberty, the early development of breasts and periods. Years of high levels of zearolone exposure is even implicated in breast and uterine cancers.
The Dance of Hormones
Whenever I am looking at hormones I like to make sure I’m looking at the levels and patterns of interaction of these 4 major systems. Mycotoxins, molds, yeast and the inflammation they create can impact all of them. They include:
- Stress hormones: Adrenaline and Cortisol
- Sex hormones : Estrogen, Testosterone and Progesterone
- Energy regulation: Thyroid
- Blood sugar regulation: Insulin
These 4 systems all interact with one another in a carefully choreographed dance so it’s really important to address all of them in a balance and recovery program.
Do you have to pee ALL the time?
Another symptom the HPA axis may be affected by mold is frequent urination. Antidiuretic hormone [ADH] is made by the pituitary gland. Low levels of ADH are often seen with mycotoxins. With low ADH your body can’t hold on to the water it needs inside your blood vessels. You end up peeing it out, or it leaks from capillaries into your tissues causing swelling, edema and loss of necessary body salts and electrolytes.
Mycotoxin exposure can lead to leaky gut.
Increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut” in itself can inflame the whole pelvis. Mold exposures can lead to chronic infections, usually treated with antibiotics, which also decimate the normal good guy probiotics, causing yeast fungal overgrowth and dysbiosis (imbalanced bacteria) in the gut. All perpetuate leaky gut. Leaky gut can contribute to insulin resistance, PCOS, cramps, endometriosis, and fibroids.
We know in many animal models, those that consume lots of mold through contaminated grains, have miscarriages and fertility issues and the same thing can happen with humans. You may have heard “leaky gut, leaky brain”. No surprise. Inflammation in the gut can travel back to the brain and limbic system through the vagus nerve. So gut inflammation can cause brain inflammation, and brain inflammation can cause all kinds of gut issues. No wonder our hormones get so out of whack! (Don’t worry! Solutions are below!)
Constipation and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth are common consequences of mold and fungal exposures. If you can’t poop the bad bacteria ferment all kinds of nasty, causing pain, bloating, gas and disrupting your ability to empty easily. This exacerbates the production of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme from bad bacteria, causing recirculation of toxic estrogens. We need to use binders in toxic illnesses to bind up the biotoxins but unfortunately if you’re constipated, they can make things worse initially. So the first step is to make sure you are pooping at least once a day! Probiotics, magnesium, butyrate, colostrum and vagal nerve activation with exercises can all help.
Take a shower inside your nose!
Wash out your nose with daily sinus rinsing with a saline solution- it helps to wash out the irritating particles and cools down brain inflammation.
More advanced strategies including adding botanical and prescription antifungal agents to those rinses and may include Biocidin, Citrusafe, colloidal silver and even antifungals such as Itraconazole or Amphotericin. Most recurrent sinus infections are FUNGAL not bacterial. 6 Try to avoid more antibiotics! We treat sinus infections using anti-fungal protocols, including ozone delivered to the sinuses through a special stethoscope to the eardrums!
HEAL Your Leaky Gut!
Heal your leaky gut with an elimination diet and gut healing nutrients such as glutamine, butyrate, colostrum, Vitamin A and D and replacing probiotics and digestive enzymes. One of the reason’s your off grains, because they often harbor molds.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of a leaky gut take a look at your diet. These are the top 8 foods that cause food intolerances in the gut:
- Processed/Packaged Foods
Many people go gluten free, but they end up eating lots of corn. Wheat, corn and peanuts can be contaminated with mold mycotoxins. It’s one of the reasons why with an Autoimmune Paleo elimination diet your off of grains for a period of time. Peanuts have aflatoxins, and corn very often is a carrier for a mold called Gibberella. Gibberella mycotoxins include vomitoxin, and zearalenone.7 None of them are good for your health!
Need help? If you are not working directly with one of our functionally trained dietitians here at Carpathia, go to MoldDetoxDiet.com to learn more.
There are many options for supporting the natural healing of your body when you have a mold/mycotoxin biotoxin illness. The choices for healing are based on individually on test results and your specific issues. Just know you are not alone, I have faced mold illness myself and understand what you are going through. Many of us have dealt with these challenges and not only survived, but thrived!